Saturday, July 25, 2015

We don't need another HERO referendum *Update*

But we will get one anyway.

The saga over a Houston city law that protects LGBT people from discrimination just took a sudden turn. The Texas Supreme Court intervened in the court fight over the effort to repeal the initiative, ordering that the Houston City Council must either repeal HERO on its own or allow it to be challenged at the ballot in the next election. Either way, the city can no longer enforce it.


According to the Court, all that mattered is that the City Secretary initially certified the referendum. It doesn’t matter what was discovered later about the validity of those signatures, or even the fact that the Secretary later acknowledged the flaws that were found. “The Charter requires the City Secretary to ‘certify’ her findings, and the only findings she expressly certified were her own,” the Court explained. It’s as simple as “no takesie-backsies.”

That's legal crapola, but SOP for nine Republicans on the SCOTX (I always enjoy typing that anagram because it rhymes with "Kotex", which is exactly what the Texas Supreme Court is).

It’s unclear if there is any remedy for LGBT advocates, particularly given the ample evidence that there actually were not sufficient signatures. This included video evidence that the petitioners were well aware of the rules they broke that should have invalidated the signatures they collected, evidence of possibly forged signatures, and a jury’s ruling that the valid signatures just did not add up.

Brad Pritchett, who runs the HOUequality site that has defended HERO throughout this process, told ThinkProgress, “The certification has been boiled down to ink on the page. If someone turned in 20,000 forged signatures, this ruling says that as long as there are 20,000 on that page, it counts. No other certification necessary.”

The city is still reviewing its options, but will likely allow the ballot initiative to advance rather than repeal it. Pritchett is optimistic that, particularly given all that it has endured so far, “If HERO is on the ballot this November, there is no doubt that Houstonians will do the right thing and reaffirm the need for HERO once again.”

Pritchett recently left the Harris County Democratic Party to take a job with the ACLU of Texas.  His husband is Noel Freeman, the former chair of the HGLBT Caucus.  I believe he's correct that a ballot up-or-down vote will favor the proponents.  The good news is that the issue should boost turnout for municipal elections just four months away that heretofore have not been generating much in the way of news coverage.

As for the political English (i.e. cue ball spin) I see Chris Bell gaining some advantage over Sylvester Turner, who has been a latecomer to the human rights issues of LBGTQ people.  Update: Towelroad details Turner's bumpy history, including the old rumors of his being homosexual himself.  But the community doesn't seem to be holding any of his past against him, and he has packed the Caucus with over six dozen purchased memberships in advance of the endorsement vote.

Former congressman Chris Bell has been actively encouraging supporters to join and show up for the August meeting, while City Councilman Stephen Costello has pursued what his campaign described as a "low-key effort" to get people to join the caucus' ranks.

Turner, on the other hand, opted to write the group a $3,040 check two weeks ago - enough for at least 76 memberships, according to spokeswoman Sue Davis.

"It's something that's done every year," Davis said.

Not to this extent, Ms. Davis (as we will see in the next excerpt).

Does HERO hate get goosed?  Does this development help Ben Hall, or is Bill King going to try to seize back the mantle of Anti-HERO Crusader?  As referenced in the previous excerpt, it probably doesn't do much for Stephen Costello, despite one of his backers being the afore-mentioned Mr. Freeman.

Former caucus president Noel Freeman, a Costello supporter, said campaigns also purchased or sponsored memberships during his tenure, though not enough to sway the outcome of the endorsement process.

"I never saw an endorsement vote that was so close that (it) would have made a difference," he said, adding that he never saw a campaign purchase more than 45 memberships during his tenure from 2011 to 2013.

We'll also have to watch how this goes with the At-Large city council posts.  AL-1, for example, has Democratic County chair Lane Lewis -- you may recall that a former Texas blogger, to his discredit, demanded and others as well suggested Lewis' resignation -- squaring off with Tom McCasland, who is supported by a large contingent of the most conservative Houston Democrats that I know.  So far he's all about mobility (though there's this Tweet from yesterday).

Charles has more and more linkage to other reactions.

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